Next week, Trion will release the Ashes of History 1.5 patch for Rift, bringing a slew of changes to the popular MMORPG. While some of the last few updates have been geared towards the hardcore, Ashes of History is aiming for a slightly different audience. It’s still going to feature content primarily for level 50 players, but it’s going to be more accessible for the "casual" or "fresh" 50s who aren’t looking to grind towards the highest-level raids in the game (while still giving those players a load of new stuff to mess around with).
1.5 adds Chronicles to Rift, which come in the form of solo and duo quests. Trion admits that there are a large number of level 50 players who simply don’t have the time to get geared up for the massive time-sinks that are end-game raids. In order to give these players a taste of the new content, they’ve created new versions of the Hammerknell and Greenscale’s Blight raid dungeons that can be completed by two people. Finding one friend to play with is much easier than finding 20, and duos were one of the elements we loved most about DC Universe Online. Seeing them added to Rift makes us really, really happy, especially considering the amount of work it looks like they’re putting into them.
They aren’t simply nerfing the dungeons and letting two players power through. These are new missions in pre-existing areas, expanding upon the characters and locations of the epic raids. Trion says that the developers worked closely with the lore team to come up with mechanics that can be used in order to let players realistically take down bosses that normally require a large group. The new duo for Hammerknell, for instance, fleshes out the backstory of the Rune King Molinar and Prince Dollin, two of the instance’s bosses. Players will still take down some of the same enemies, too, but with the help of NPCs or other environmental bonuses that make such tasks feasible. These missions can be repeated on a daily basis and have unique enemies, items, and artifact sets, as well as some random elements, giving players plenty of reasons to jump on with a friend (or brave it alone).
Adding even more incentive to repeat missions is the new Soul Attunement system, which might be the addition to the end-game since release. Hitting level cap in an MMO is a bittersweet affair, because even though it allows access to high-level content, it also signals the moment the experience bar stops moving. Soul Attunement kicks it back into gear, rewarding players for their experience with points that can be spent on different bonuses spread over a number of hexagonal grids themed for the different elemental planes. There’s one for each, unlocking both passive and active bonuses themed towards the elements. Spending points on Earth may unlock the ability to force an Earth rift to appear at a specific location, whereas the Water Attunement grid could lead to underwater breathing spells.
Points are rewarded not just for experience gained, but for other actions, too. “We could give them out as rewards, just like anything else,” Rift design director Simon Ffinch told us, hinting at future opportunities to earn extra Attunement points through other means besides killing planar beasts and earning experience. We asked Ffinch if there were plans to reward players who already hit 50, but were told that it wasn't something they were going to do. We're not too upset, though. Sure, it might feel like past time was wasted, but considering how much content Rift has, we’re not going to run out of things to do anytime soon. Plus, this patch adds in Veteran Rewards, which give players items depending on how long they subscribed. We'll take that as a consolation prize.
One of the coolest new additions (and the way to unlock Soul Attunment) is a new Chronicle that is available to all players that hit level 50. Ffinch said that the feedback they got from players was that they felt as though hitting level 50 wasn’t as climactic as it should be – which is something this new mission addresses. Players are invited to a celebration for hitting level 50, which, of course, is crashed by enemies. It's an awesome idea, and something we totally hope catches on in MMOs. Getting to level cap is important, and there's no better way to celebrate than getting to fight alongside some of the game’s most important NPCs in the capitol city streets. We’re looking forward to trying it out on our own characters.
There are some other changes coming in Ashes of History, like a new Warfront that takes place in the Library of Hammerknell and some improvements to the game's per-existing dungeons. So far there’s not a set release date, but Trion expects the release to come sometime next week, and we’ll be sure to let you know when it goes live.
Sep 21, 2011